It just wasn’t fucking fair. I shouldn’t have been the one to walk away.
“Sage,” Jacob was trying to get my attention. I blinked a few times and realized that Tricky and Angeline had introduced themselves to each other, his dark hand grasping her pale one firmly, her gazing at him coyly, eyelashes practically batting. There was something so mistrustful in her eyes, but deceit was easy to come by in an industry where you could fuck your way to fame. For all I knew—for all I figured—Angeline had a job to do in more ways than one.
I looked to Jacob and was immediately met with disapproval. He’d been watching me, the way that a heron watches a fish, waiting with infinite impatience for me to realize I’d done something wrong. Maybe in his weird, quasi-supernatural way, Jacob could see where my thoughts were. Or maybe he read the self-loathing on my face. Either way, he didn’t approve.
“Yeah?” I replied as Tricky deftly reached down to the carousel and plucked my newfound bag from it like a sack of feathers. Jacob took it from him and placed it in the luggage cart before shooting me a quick look.
“Angeline was wondering if she can take us all out for dinner,” Jacob went on. I looked to her, and under the harshness of the airport lights, I had the distinct impression that every expression that came across her pretty face was all precalculated. A queer feeling to have but nothing new for me.
“That’s fine,” I said, though dinner was the farthest thing from my mind. I just really wanted to crawl into my bed at the hotel, go to sleep, and not wake up until this whole thing was over.
Fucking brilliant frame of mind to be in. First solo tour—in Europe—and I was more interested in sleeping.
“Sage, man,” Tricky said, slapping me hard on the back, “try to show some enthusiasm for the beautiful lady here.”
I turned my head away from them before rolling my eyes. I was sure that Tricky would show her enough enthusiasm for both of us later on.
“Well, now that you have your luggage and your ride, Paris awaits,” Angeline said, flicking her wrist toward the doors leading out of the airport.
We followed her sharp little Marilyn Monroe walk out into the pick-up area, where a ton of funny-looking cabs and giant black Town Cars were all vying for space, honking like their lives depended on it. Even though the sky was a heavy, even grey, I pulled my shades down. I just wanted to protect my eyes and shield off the creeping headache that I could feel coming on, but maybe instinctually I knew shit was about to go down.
I was bombarded with bodies.
Jacob, Tricky, and I were halfway to a white limousine that Angeline was standing triumphantly beside when people surrounded me from all sides and started rushing me. I could barely get a glimpse of the individual faces within the crowd—mostly males in their teens and early twenties with some hardcore females thrown in there—all of them yelling “Sage” in a French accent, along with a bunch of other shit I couldn’t understand. They waved the album cover of Sage Wisdom at me, along with their pens and markers. Some had T-shirts. A few had Hybrid merchandise. I tried not to look at those pieces.
“Everyone step back!” Jacob boomed, pushing me behind him. I was taller than my manager and in better shape, but Jacob had a way of making people listen to him. Before I learned he used to be immortal, I chalked it up to his fists and a pocketknife. Now I had to wonder if he didn’t have trace residues of Hoodoo in him.
The crowd backed up reluctantly, but they didn’t shut up and they didn’t stop waving their stuff at me. I knew I should have felt flattered by all of this, but I was just overwhelmed and shaken to the core. All these people were here to see me…they met me at the fucking airport. All of them. For me. And why? How? It just didn’t make sense. In the States I had my fans, but they hung around after the show by the back door, loitering quietly in the alleyways. But this…I was completely unprepared.
“Sage!” one young girl with a severe haircut squeezed past Jacob and thrust her Hybrid T-shirt into my hands. It was obvious she’d never worn it; it was white and in showroom condition. “Please, Sage, sign it! My friend in America got Robbie and Mickey to sign it, but she never saw you.”
I stared down at the shirt. Mickey’s signature still looked fresh, and I felt like I had been kicked straight in the gut. He was dead and I was here.
I absently scrawled my name on it with a fat marker, my gaze falling on the crowd around me, and my headache in full force, the pumping blood drowning out their cries. This tour was a mistake. The album was a mistake. Everything was a mistake.
“Come on,” Jacob said, taking my arm roughly and yelling at everyone to back off and that I’d see them all at the show in two nights. He led me right over to the limo and thrust me into the backseat, which smelled of stale smoke and whiskey. Tricky, Jacob, and Angeline slid in after me, but I was already reaching for the small bar and pouring myself a glass.
“Easy now,” Jacob warned, but there was no stopping me. I downed the burning liquid in one gulp. I know I’d been a rock star before, but I had never felt it like this. Hybrid’s fame had always been…spread out. It was placed on the group as a whole. We dealt with it as it came and we made it work. And when things got really weird, whether with crazy fans or super groupies (the demonic GTFOs, or “Get the Fuck Outs” as we called them, didn’t count), it was always Robbie who handled it. He got the fan mail. He handled most of the interview requests, the autographs, the perks, and the downfalls of fame. He shouldered it all and had done it well.
Now I was in Robbie’s role. I was the rock star. And everyone wanted piece of me, a taste of these damaged goods.
By the time we reached Paris, I was pleasantly buzzed and no longer wanting sleep. Angeline tried to point out the sites to me, rattling off the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe and a whack of other places with frou-frou names, but I wasn’t interested. I just wanted to keep the buzz going, to enter the land of “I don’t give a shit” and “come back later.”
Luckily the mob that greeted me at the airport wasn’t here. Apparently our limo driver took a few detours in order to lose any possible paparazzi, and I was checked in at the hotel under the name Mr. Underhill. I let Jacob handle all the paperwork while I took my bag upstairs to my room. We had dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant at eight (they liked to eat late here) and until then I just needed time to myself, time to think, time to plan how I was going to handle all of this.
Because suddenly, as I gazed out of the window with a bottle of the finest French champagne in hand, taking in the sights of the grey streets with meandering tourists and the rows of similar houses and the clouds that hung lower than a fat man’s balls, it finally hit me. My psyche had pushed past the feelings of guilt and unworthiness and had found a ripe new fruit to feast on—the fact that I had no fucking idea what I was doing.
The shows I’d played in the States before this—that was nothing. A few appetizers before the main course. Now we were all the way on another continent, just me and Tricky and Jacob. I had a drummer and another guitarist and a keyboardist I had yet to meet and new roadies and sound techs and whoever the fuck else that would be joining us on the tour. I had a voice that was feeling rough and apparently legions of fans who actually gave a fuck. Who actually expected something from me. This wasn’t America, where people watched you politely for a few moments while you opened up for The Band. This was the place where I had the chance to fall—to fail—all over again.
I took a long swig from the bottle and plopped backward onto the bed. I could feel the jet lag creeping toward me, extending its fingers, wanting to pull me under. I had to resist. I had the dinner. I had to stay awake.
“Sage,” a voice called out, sweet and clear, like a meadow brook.
I didn’t think much of the voice. I often heard voices. Usually they were screams. The sounds of my friends dying, echoing in my mind.
But then I heard it again.
I let the bottle carefully drop onto the floor and slowly raised my head off the mattress. The door to the bathroom was open just a crack. A tap was dripping.
There was someone in there.
The walls seemed to throb as I slowly eased myself off the bed. The champagne bubbles were a distant memory, and my tongue felt like it was coated with a layer of sand. I walked a few steps, one, two, three, and stopped outside the door, holding my breath.
I waited a few seconds. Counting. Listening.
Was that the sound of someone breathing? Or was that my own blood rushing through?
I gently pushed the door open with my splayed fingers and prepared for the worst.
The bathroom was empty. There was a porcelain toilet and something I assumed was a bidet, a tiny bathtub, and a mirror over the ornately carved sink.
And on the mirror, written in red, was Be Careful What She Wished For.
I stared at it dumbly for a few moments. My first thought was not of fear or my mind being fucked thoroughly but whether it was written in blood or red lipstick or red nail polish. I leaned forward, still too wary to set foot on the tiles, and peered at it closer. It was lipstick, the thick matte kind that Angeline was sporting earlier, but far lighter, brighter.
All of which was totally unimportant. Because someone had left this message for me…hadn’t they?
I exhaled sharply and closed my eyes. When I opened them again, the message was still there.
Be Careful What She Wished For.
There was something about it, the way it registered in me. But I wasn’t sure why I was having a connection to it, other than the fact that it was written on my bathroom mirror.
I made my way over to the champagne bottle, drank half of it in a few fizzy chugs, and picked up the phone, dialing the front desk. I tried to explain what had happened, but it was too complicated for their understanding of English, so I just told them I needed to see the manager. Then I asked to be connected to Jacob’s room.
He answered on first ring. “Yellow?”
“You need to come to my room—now,” I said, slamming down the phone.
I paced back and forth for a few minutes, eyeing the bathroom, until Jacob arrived, knocking at my door.
I let him in and pointed at the bathroom. “Take a look at that.”
Jacob went over and poked his head in, looking from side to side. “Your bathroom is bigger than mine. Wanker.”
“The mirror, Jacob,” I said, gritting my teeth. I plucked up the bottle and guzzled the rest of it.
He looked back at the mirror, nodded, and said, “Huh. Graffiti.”
“Is that it?” I couldn’t tell if he didn’t care or was being particularly evasive.
He opened his mouth to say something, his crooked bottom teeth showing, just as the hotel manager appeared in the doorway, looking blasé.
I quickly explained to him what had happened and let him see for himself. The manager looked at us apologetically and pressed his palms together.
“You must excuse me, monsieur Knightly. We, ah, have a housecleaner here who can sometimes be a little…strange. She hasn’t done something like this in a while.”
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